Monthly Archives: December 2017

IN REMEMBRANCE: 12-31-2017


Recy Taylor in 2011 in Lafayette Park in Washington after touring the White House. Credit Susan Walsh/Associated Press

Recy Taylor, a 24-year-old African-American sharecropper, was walking home from church in Abbeville, Ala., on the night of Sept. 3, 1944, when she was abducted and raped by six white men.

The crime was extensively covered in the black press and an early catalyst for the civil rights movement. The N.A.A.C.P. sent a young activist from its Montgomery, Ala., chapter named Rosa Parks to investigate. African-Americans around the country demanded that the men be prosecuted.

But the attack, like many involving black victims during the Jim Crow era in the South, never went to trial. Two all-white, all-male grand juries refused to indict the men, even though one of them had confessed.

Decades passed before the case gained renewed attention, with the publication in 2010 of “At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance — a New History of the Civil Rights Movement From Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power,” by the historian Danielle L. McGuire. The book prompted an official apology in 2011 to Mrs. Taylor by the Alabama Legislature, which called the failure to prosecute her attackers “morally abhorrent and repugnant.”

Mrs. Taylor died in Abbeville on Thursday, three weeks after the release of “The Rape of Recy Taylor,” a documentary about the crime. She was 97. The death was confirmed by her brother, Robert Lee Corbitt.

“Many ladies got raped,” Mrs. Taylor said in the film, interviewed by its director, Nancy Buirski. “The peoples there — they seemed like they wasn’t concerned about what happened to me, and they didn’t try and do nothing about it. I can’t help but tell the truth of what they done to me.”

Born on Dec. 31, 1919, to a family of sharecroppers in Abbeville, in southeastern Alabama, Recy (pronounced “REE-see”) Corbitt found herself caring for six younger siblings after their mother died when she was 17.

On the night of the attack, she had gone to Rock Hill Holiness Church for a Pentecostal service of singing and praying and was walking home along a country highway bounded by peanut farms. A friend, Fannie Daniel, 61, and Ms. Daniel’s 18-year-old son, West, were with her. They noticed a green Chevrolet passing by several times.

Eventually the car stopped, and seven young white men, armed with guns and knives, stepped out. One of them, Herbert Lovett, the oldest in the group, ordered the three to halt, and then pointed a shotgun at them when they ignored him.

The men forced Mrs. Taylor into the car at gunpoint and drove her to a grove of pine trees on the side of the road, where they forced her to disrobe. She begged to be allowed to go, citing her husband and their 3-year-old daughter. But Mr. Lovett was unmoved. Ordering her to “act just like you do with your husband or I’ll cut your damn throat,” he and five other men raped her. (A seventh young man, Billy Howerton, said later that he did not take part because he knew Mrs. Taylor.)

Dumped out of the car, Mrs. Taylor removed her blindfold and stumbled toward safety. Her father, Benny Corbitt, had learned of the abduction and gone searching for her. Soon the county sheriff, George H. Gamble, arrived.

Mrs. Taylor told Sheriff Gamble that she could not identify her assailants, but her description of the car matched only one vehicle in the county, that of Hugo Wilson. When the sheriff returned with Mr. Wilson and his father, Mrs. Taylor identified Mr. Wilson as one of her attackers, as did the teenage friend.

Questioned at the county jail, Mr. Wilson acknowledged that he and five others — Mr. Lovett, Dillard York, Luther Lee, Willie Joe Culpepper and Robert Gamble — “all had intercourse with her,” but insisted that they had paid her and that it was not rape. The sheriff sent Mr. Wilson home.

The next evening, Mrs. Taylor faced new threats: White vigilantes set her porch on fire. The following day, she and her husband, Willie Guy Taylor, and their daughter, Joyce Lee, moved in with her father and siblings. Mr. Corbitt, her father, would sleep in a chinaberry tree in the backyard, watching over the family while cradling a double-barreled shotgun, going inside to sleep only after the sun rose.

Mrs. Taylor in a 1944 photograph. Credit Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

As word of the crime spread through Alabama’s black community the N.A.A.C.P.’s Montgomery chapter sent Mrs. Parks, who had spent much of her childhood in Abbeville, to interview Mrs. Taylor.

The deputy sheriff, Lewey Corbitt (not a close relation), was not happy about Mrs. Parks’s presence. He drove past the house repeatedly and then forcibly ejected her. “I don’t want any troublemakers here in Abbeville,” he warned her. “If you don’t go, I’ll lock you up.”

Mindful of the outrage surrounding the case of the Scottsboro Boys — nine black teenagers who had been wrongly accused of raping two white women in 1931 — the county prosecutor took care to provide a semblance of equal justice. But it was an empty gesture.

When the grand jury met on Oct. 3 and 4, 1944, Mrs. Taylor’s loved ones were the only witnesses. None of the men had been arrested, and there had not been a police lineup, so Mrs. Taylor could not identify her attackers.

The grand jury declined to indict the men. Word spread through union halls, churches, barbershops, pool halls and, significantly, through the black press. “Alabama Whites Attack Woman; Not Punished,” declared a headline in The Pittsburgh Courier, an African-American newspaper.

It was the final year of World War II, and some blacks likened their struggle for equal rights to the fight against fascism. Eugene Gordon, a black writer for The Daily Worker, a Communist newspaper in New York, interviewed Mrs. Taylor and told his readers, “The raping of Mrs. Recy Taylor was a fascist-like brutal violation of her personal rights as a woman and as a citizen of democracy.”

At an emergency meeting in the Hotel Theresa in Harlem on Nov. 25, 1944, the Committee for Equal Justice for Mrs. Recy Taylor, which Mrs. Parks had helped organize, became a national organization. It spearheaded a campaign of letters, petitions and postcards urging Gov. Chauncey Sparks to investigate.


Trailer: ‘The Rape of Recy Taylor’

A preview of the film.

By THE ORCHARD on Publish Date December 13, 2017. Photo by Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University/Augusta Films. Watch in Times Video »

The governor, who was a mentor of the segregationist future governor George C. Wallace, came under considerable pressure as African-American activists like W. E. B. DuBois and Mary Church Terrell and writers like Countee Cullen and Langston Hughes took up Mrs. Taylor’s cause.

The governor sent investigators, who found that Sheriff Gamble had lied about having arrested the men. By then, four of the seven men had admitted to having had sex with Mrs. Taylor, but they insisted that she had participated willingly.

One of the men, Willie Joe Culpepper, however, backed up Mrs. Taylor’s account, saying she had been coerced.

“She was crying and asking us to let her go home to her husband and baby,” he said.

Despite the confession, a second grand jury, on Feb. 14, 1945, refused to hand up an indictment.

The civil rights activists eventually moved on, and Mrs. Taylor faded into obscurity. Fearing reprisals, she moved to Montgomery for a few months with help from Mrs. Parks. Eventually the family moved to Central Florida, where Mrs. Taylor picked oranges.

She and Mr. Taylor separated, and he died in the early 1960s. Their only child died in a car crash in 1967. Mrs. Taylor had two subsequent partners, both of whom died. She lived for many years in Winter Haven, Fla., before failing health prompted her relatives to bring her back to Abbeville.

In addition to her brother, she is survived by two sisters, Lillie Kinsey and Mary Murry; a granddaughter; and several great-grandchildren.

The publication of Ms. McGuire’s book led to apologies from the mayor of Abbeville and from the county and state governments in 2011. The Alabama Legislature’s apology was formally presented to Mrs. Taylor on Mother’s Day that year at the Pentecostal church, now known as Abbeville Memorial Church of God in Christ, where she had worshiped the night of the crime.

In Ms. Buirski’s film, Mrs. Taylor recalled how she could have easily been killed. “The Lord was just with me that night,” she said.



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Lunar Hall of Fame

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Beginning in 1645, obsessed observers drew maps of the Moon’s face in ever-greater detail. These observers made it into the author’s Lunar Hall of Fame. Read more…

Top 10 Astronomy News Stories for 2017

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Multiple gravitational-wave detections, a total solar eclipse, and exploration of the outer system number among the top astronomy news stories of the year. Read more…

Solar and Lunar Eclipses in 2018

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Two total lunar eclipses occur this year, the first since late 2015, in January and July. Meanwhile, three solar eclipses take place in 2018 — all of them only partial cover-ups. Read more…

The Best Meteor Showers in 2018

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More than a dozen times each year, we experience a strong pulse of “shooting stars” from an annual meteor shower. Sky & Telescope predicts that the two best meteor showers in 2018 will be the Perseids in mid-August and the Geminids in mid-December. Read more…


This Week’s Sky at a Glance, December 29 – January 6

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See what’s in the sky this week. If you live in the eastern US the Moon occults Aldebaran Saturday, December 30. Read more…

What to See with Your New Telescope

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Here’s how to start right! First, learn everything about how your scope works and handles — first indoors, then outside in daytime. Now, what’s to see? And how do you locate it? Read more…

Tour January’s Sky: Four Planets at Dawn

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January’s astronomy podcast describes how to spot Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn in the predawn sky during January — plus you’ll learn about a “trifecta” full Moon at month’s end. Read more…



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IN REMEMBRANCE: 12-17-2017


The unit’s mission, under the name Operation Firefly, was hidden from the public during the war to prevent panic over the balloons’ ability to reach the United States.

The so-called Fu-Go balloons, 33 feet in diameter and buoyed by hydrogen, floated on the jet stream and could travel the 5,000 miles from the Japanese mainland to the Pacific Northwest in three or four days.

Of the estimated 9,000 that were launched, about 1,000 reached the West Coast, where they potentially threatened crops and the country’s strategic lumber supply.

Mr. Beavers in 1941. In the racially segregated wartime military, members of his black unit were “heartbroken” at being denied combat duty. Credit Beavers Family

One airborne bomb damaged a generator at the Hanford Engineer Works reactor in Washington State, where plutonium was being processed for the first atomic bombs.

An antipersonnel fragmentation bomb exploded on the ground in southern Oregon, killing a pregnant woman and five children in what were believed to be the only fatalities resulting from the low-tech attacks.

But because 1945 was rainy in the Northwest, the threat of wildfires kindled by the balloons’ incendiary bombs was minimized.

Instead, the paratroopers were specially trained by the United States Forest Service to jump from C-47 transport planes and be deployed to fight fires ignited by lightning and other causes. The training helped modernize how fires in remote forests could be contained and extinguished.

Clarence Hylan Beavers was born in Harlem on June 12, 1921, the 15th of 16 children. (His middle name was given in honor of John F. Hylan, who was New York’s mayor at the time and also his godfather.) His maternal grandparents had been escaped slaves, and his maternal grandfather served in the Union Army during the Civil War.

His father, Tipp Garfield Beavers Sr., was a commercial artist who worked for Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The elder Mr. Beavers had moved the family north from Alabama after being arrested there for opposing segregation and sentenced to a chain gang.

Clarence’s mother was the former Mary E. Martin.

After graduating from George Washington High School in Manhattan, Mr. Beavers enlisted in the National Guard. Drafted by the Army, he was assigned to a maintenance unit.

Blacks in the Army were typically relegated to menial roles, but in late 1943 an order barring them from serving as front-line paratroopers was rescinded.

Mr. Beavers was the first to volunteer for parachute training and was assigned to an all-black barracks at Fort Benning in Georgia, a segregated state.

“Riding to parachute school,” he recalled on the 555th Parachute Infantry Association website, “the driver of the Jeep sent to pick me up kept looking at me as we passed each streetlight. Under the fear of him having an accident, I told him I was a Negro and requested that he keep his eyes on the road and his mind on driving.”

But without an all-black unit to take him, his parachute training was delayed, until Mr. Beavers appealed to the Department of the Army.

Finally, in late 1943, an all-black unit was constituted as an experiment. Of 20 original volunteers, 17 completed training and formed a prototype platoon that became the core of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion. Mr. Beavers was the only surviving member of those 17.

“Both officers and enlisted men were making bets that we wouldn’t jump — we’d be too afraid,” Walter J. Morris, another trainee, was quoted as saying in the book “Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America’s First Black Paratroopers” (2013), by Tanya Lee Stone.

Mr. Beavers had a similar recollection.

“Those that wanted to see us make it put forth their full effort; equally, those who didn’t want to see us make it did everything they could to see that we didn’t,” he was quoted on the association’s website. “While other trainees came through the front door and went to the counter for their food, we had to come in by the side door.”

Mr. Beavers on his 90th birthday in 2011 with his wife, Lena, at their home in Huntington, N.Y. Credit Beavers Family

But, he said, “we were hopeful that if we did a damn good job, things for the African-Americans would improve after the war had ended.”

By late 1944, with the war ebbing and the unit’s ranks still limited in numbers, the paratroopers were assigned to Pendleton Field, Ore., and Chico, Calif., as part of Operation Firefly. They saw a racial motivation behind the orders.

“Major commanders in Europe were leery of having highly trained colored paratroopers coming into contact with racist white elements of the time,” according to the association’s history.

The decision to keep them stateside was a setback for the paratroopers.

“They were very heartsick after all their training, that they had done everything and passed everything they had to do, that they were not able to go overseas to join the rest of the fighting men,” Mr. Beavers’s wife, the former Edolene Davis, told the Long Island newspaper Newsday. “This was a way for them to serve.”

In addition to his wife and his daughter Charlotta, Mr. Beavers is survived by four other daughters, Dawn Hargrove, Patricia Merritt, Charis Beavers and Charlayne Beavers; a son, Clarence II; 18 grandchildren; 22 great-grandchildren; and 10 great-great-grandchildren.

During the summer and fall of 1945, the Army parachutists made 1,200 individual jumps to fight more than a dozen fires. They suffered only one fatality: a medic who fell from a tree.

After the war, Mr. Beavers was discharged as a staff sergeant, and the battalion was incorporated into the 82nd Airborne Division. In 1948, President Harry S. Truman banned racial discrimination in the military under an executive order that led to full desegregation of the armed forces.

Mr. Beavers later worked on computer systems for the Veterans Administration and for the Defense Department in Germany and Washington. After he retired in 1978, and before moving to Long Island, he lived in upstate New York, where he served as a volunteer firefighter.




Roy Reed in the Washington bureau of The New York Times in 1968. In the background is Marjorie Hunter, a Times reporter. Credit George Tames/The New York Times

On June 6, 1966, James Meredith tried to make history for the second time. Having integrated the University of Mississippi in 1962, he announced a plan to walk from Memphis deep into his neighboring home state. Before getting very far, however, he was shot in the back by a white man.

More than 1,000 miles away in New York City, the national editor of The New York Times, Claude Sitton, was scanning the photos being transmitted by news agencies and the images on his television while looking for his reporter who was covering Mr. Meredith.

“Where’s Roy Reed? he demanded.

To Mr. Reed’s chagrin, he had been several hundred yards down the road in a grocery store with other reporters, having a cold Coca-Cola. He scrambled to the scene, however, and filed the day’s story, then further redeemed himself by scoring the first interview with Mr. Meredith in his hospital room.

Mr. Reed, a self-professed “hick-talking Arkansawyer” who worked for The Times from 1965 until 1978, spending much of that time crisscrossing the American South, died on Sunday night at a hospital in Fayetteville, Ark., said his son, John. He was 87. He had been unconscious since having a severe stroke at his home in Hogeye, near Fayetteville, on Saturday morning.

Aside from the soda incident, a story he told on himself with perverse pride, Mr. Reed seemed to have an uncanny knack for being in the right place. He was there on Feb. 5, 1965, when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was released from jail in Selma, Ala., after spending several days behind bars for trying to lead a voting-rights protest march. Mr. Reed not only wrote the front-page article; he also ended up inadvertently in the photograph that ran with it.


From The Archive | Feb. 6, 1965
Dr. King to Seek New Voting Law

Martin Luther King Jr. said after he was released from jail in Selma, Ala., that he would fly to Washington to ask for legislation granting blacks the right to vote.

The New York Times

See full article in TimesMachine

1 of 1

He was at the Pettus Bridge in Selma on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965, when troopers, as he wrote, “tore through a column of Negro demonstrators with tear gas, nightsticks and whips.” Choking from his own exposure to tear gas, Mr. Reed filed a vivid story that said “the wedge moved with such force that it seemed almost to pass over the waiting column instead of through it.” As the protesters went down under the swinging billy clubs, he wrote, “a cheer went up from the white spectators lining the south side of the highway.”

Remembering the scene years later, he wrote, “I hope never again to see such hatred in the eyes of men, women and, yes, children.


From The Archive | March 8, 1965
Alabama Police Use Gas and Clubs to Rout Negroes

Roy Reed’s coverage of Bloody Sunday, when the police used tear gas, nightsticks and whips on demonstrators, who fought back with bricks and bottles.

The New York Times

See full article in TimesMachine

1 of 1

A month after Bloody Sunday, he was dining in Montgomery with other reporters at the city’s Elite Restaurant. John Doar, the assistant attorney general for civil rights, was at a nearby table when he was called away to the restaurant’s phone. Mr. Doar came back “grim-faced,” Mr. Reed later recalled, and moved from table to table to tell the reporters what he had just learned: A white woman affiliated with the civil rights movement, Viola Liuzzo, had been murdered by a carload of Ku Klux Klansmen. The restaurant cleared as reporters ran to file their stories.

Mr. Reed’s memoir, published in 2012 by the University of Arkansas Press, recounted his 13 years with The New York Times.

Each of these incidents, and the reporting by Mr. Reed and many others, helped tip the balance in the nation’s racial conflict and propel civil rights legislation through Congress.

Mr. Sitton, himself an acclaimed reporter on the civil rights movement who died in 2015, recalled Mr. Reed as “a great reporter with a wonderful grasp of what’s needed to make a story come alive.”

“He’d put you right on the scene,” Mr. Sitton said in an interview for this obituary in 2013.

In “The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation,” Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff wrote that Mr. Reed “could write magically, choosing words that caught your eye.” Mr. Sitton hired him, they wrote, because he “knew Reed to be unfailingly accurate, deeply reflective, uncommonly polite, and, like the Times reporters who had preceded him in the South, he spoke Southern.”

Mr. Reed, in a memoir, “Beware of Limbo Dancers: A Correspondent’s Adventures with The New York Times,” wrote that “Speaking Southern was not just a matter of drawl or twang; it meant a different way of framing thoughts.” It meant that he understood the territory, even as he was appalled by the racism and violence that undergirded the suppression of voting rights.

Roy Earl Reed was born on Feb. 14, 1930, in Hot Springs, Ark., and grew up in Piney, in the state’s western Hill Country. His parents were Roy Edward Reed, a grocer, and Ella Meredith Reed. A younger sister, Hattie, died in 1964. In his memoir, he said that working in the store as a boy and talking to a black customer, Leroy Samuels, about the injustice of segregation helped awaken him from “generations of family prejudice lying not quite dormant in my young mind.”

In 1952, he married the former Norma Pendleton, who survives him. Besides his son, John, he is also survived by a daughter, Cynthia Buck, and five grandchildren.

Mr. Reed studied journalism at the University of Missouri, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and worked at The Globe in Joplin, Mo., from 1954 to 1956. From there, he made his way to The Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock, taking time off to continue his journalism studies with a Nieman fellowship at Harvard as a member of its class of 1964.

The Times hired him six months after he returned to The Gazette. He did his first Southern reporting for the newspaper from a base in Atlanta, then moved to the Washington bureau in 1966, covering national politics and the White House.

As a White House correspondent Mr. Reed sometimes took trips with Lady Bird Johnson, often as the only male reporter in a group of 20 or 25. “All of them, including Mrs. Johnson, treated me like one of the girls,” he said.

He returned to the South in 1969 to work from New Orleans, and ended his Times career as a correspondent based in London. He said that he had loved the life of adventure and travel until he didn’t, waking up one morning and not knowing where he was. “I got out of bed and found the hotel stationery and learned that I was in a hotel in Ireland,” he wrote.

After leaving the newspaper, he taught journalism at the University of Arkansas and wrote several books, including “Looking for Hogeye,” essays about the South, published in 1986, and “Faubus: The Life and Times of an American Prodigal,” about Orval Faubus, the former Arkansas governor, in 1997.

His memoir “Beware of Limbo Dancers” was published in 2012. The title, he wrote, came from a message neatly written on the inside of a door in a bathroom stall in the old New York Times building on West 43rd Street.

“This was a style of wit that I had never before encountered,” he wrote. “I suddenly knew that I was a stranger in town — not unwelcome, just a stranger.’’

As a retired reporter he also wrote many advance obituaries about Southern figures for The Times, some of which have not yet been published.

When Mr. Reed first left the South, in 1966, his Times colleagues gave him a trophy of sorts: a wooden stand displaying a soda bottle and a brass plaque bearing the words, “WHERE’S ROY REED?”

In his memoir, Mr. Reed wrote that he could see the mortifying object on a bookshelf as he worked at his desk in Arkansas, and he confessed, “It was a while before I could see the humor in it.”

Correction: December 12, 2017
An earlier version of this obituary misspelled the name of a fellowship that Mr. Reed received. It is the Nieman fellowship, not Neiman.

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Probing the Depths of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

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NASA’s Juno spacecraft peeked under the clouds of the most iconic weather feature in the solar system, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, revealing a complex structure deep below the surface. Read more…

Which of Kepler’s Stars Flare?

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The habitability of distant exoplanets is dependent upon many factors — one of which is the activity of their host stars. To learn about which stars are most likely to flare, a recent study examines tens of thousands of stellar flares observed by Kepler. Read more…

Does New Horizons’ Next Target Have a Moon?

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New analysis from the New Horizons team suggest that the spacecraft’s next target in the Kuiper Belt might have a third companion. Read more…

AGU 2017: News from the Solar System

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Here’s a quick look at results announced at the 2017 American Geophysical Union meeting in New Orleans: exploding meteoroids, Saturn’s ring-atmosphere connection, and more bright spots on Ceres. Read more…

Official Names Approved for 86 More Stars

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The International Astronomical Union has given its official approval for 86 additional star names. Read more…

Neural Network Finds Planet System That Rivals Our Own

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Scientists have applied a brand of artificial intelligence to data from the exoplanet-hunting Kepler satellite, resulting in the discovery of the first eight-planet system outside our own. Read more…


This Week’s Sky at a Glance, December 15 – 23

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As the Summer Triangle sinks in the west, Altair is the first of its stars to go. Start by spotting bright Vega in the northwest at nightfall. The brightest star above it is Deneb. Altair is farther to Vega’s lower left. Read more…

What’s the Thinnest Crescent Moon You Can See?

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A slender crescent Moon is a beautiful and inspiring sight. December and January offer several opportunities to see these exceptional slices in the sky. Read more…

Tour December’s Sky: See 3 Planets at Dawn

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As you’ll hear in December’s astronomy podcast, early risers are treated with views of Jupiter (obvious), Mars (not as easy), and Mercury (timing’s everything). Read more…

Seeing vs. Transparency: What’s the Difference?

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Good weather for imaging is about more than just the clouds! Even if it’s cloud-free, you’ll need to understand if the seeing and transparency are good. Read more…

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IN REMEBRANCE: 12-10-2017


Simeon Booker Jr., center, receiving an award at an annual event by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation in 2010. Credit Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

Simeon S. Booker Jr., an award-winning journalist and author who provided pioneering coverage of racial injustice and the civil rights struggle for readers of Jet and Ebony magazines and was The Washington Post’s first black reporter, died on Sunday in Solomons, Md. He was 99.

His wife, Carol, confirmed his death to The Post.

As the escalating battle between civil rights activists and die-hard segregationists became the nation’s most gripping domestic story in the 1950s and ’60s, Mr. Booker traveled dangerous roads with Freedom Riders, marched with protesters and covered the major racial crises and personalities of the era.

Frankly pursuing journalism to fight racism, he began in the 1940s with black newspapers in Baltimore and Cleveland, and was The Post’s first full-time black reporter from 1952 to 1954, covering general news. But he quit to be Jet’s chief columnist and the Washington bureau chief of its parent, Johnson Publishing, for access to corridors of power and the freedom to write about civil rights with an analytical voice.

In 1955, his articles on the murder and mutilation of 14-year-old Emmett Till and the acquittal of two white killers in Mississippi, and on the Montgomery bus boycott sparked by Rosa Parks’s refusal to give up her seat — major events that catalyzed the civil rights movement — were among the era’s most notable journalistic works.

In 1961, he was the only journalist with the first Freedom Riders, who protested transportation segregation in the South by busing from Atlanta to Birmingham. A 150-mile gantlet of mob violence peaked in Alabama with a firebombing and attacks by police officers with nightsticks and snarling dogs.

And in 1965, he joined the march from Selma to Montgomery that became the movement’s political and emotional climax, as televised attacks by Alabama state troopers shocked Americans and dramatically shifted public opinion against segregationists.

For the millions of readers of the weekly Jet and the monthly Ebony, he was more than a front-line reporter. He also covered Washington policies, interviewing presidents and members of Congress, and analyzed the tactics and strategies of civil rights movement leaders, including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, A. Philip Randolph and James Farmer.

Mr. Booker, who retired in 2007 after 65 years in journalism, had also chronicled the wider black experience — political and economic trends, the achievements of celebrities, the changing lives of ordinary people — for readers who often saw themselves reflected in the mainstream media in stereotypical ways.

“I always found myself opening Jet and looking first at what he had to say,” Dorothy Height, founder of the National Council of Negro Women, recalled at a retirement party for Mr. Booker at the National Press Club in Washington. “It was like getting the gospel according to Simeon.”

Simeon Saunders Booker Jr. was born in Baltimore on Aug. 27, 1918, the second of four children of Simeon Saunders Booker and Roberta Waring Booker. The family moved to Youngstown, Ohio, when Simeon was 5. He became interested in journalism through a family friend who owned The Baltimore Afro-American, and he joined the paper as a reporter in 1942 after earning a degree in English from Virginia Union University, a historically black school in Richmond.

In 1945, he returned to Ohio and joined another black newspaper, The Call & Post, in Cleveland. Besides his news reporting, he took graduate courses in journalism and radio at Cleveland College, and began writing for Ebony. On a cross-country car trip, he wrote profiles of black people, including a cowboy in Wyoming and a Mormon in Utah. In 1950, he won a Nieman fellowship to study for a year at Harvard.

His ensuing two years at The Washington Post were unsatisfying, in part because segregation limited his assignments. But he found the range he wanted with Johnson Publishing, and soon came to national attention with his articles about the lynching of Emmett Till and the sham trial of his killers, who, after their acquittal, admitted murdering the boy.

Mr. Booker’s first marriage, to Thelma Cunningham, ended in divorce. In 1973, he married the former Carol McCabe. Survivors include two sons, Simeon III and Theodore; a daughter, Theresa; and several grandchildren. His son James died in 1992.

From 1959 to 1978, Mr. Booker was a syndicated radio commentator for Westinghouse Broadcasting. His first book, “Black Man’s America” (1964), surveyed the history, causes and leadership of the civil rights movement. He also wrote “Susie King Taylor: Civil War Nurse” (1969). His memoir, “Shocking the Conscience: A Reporter’s Account of the Civil Rights Movement,” written with his wife, Carol, was published in 2013.

Mr. Booker was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame in 2013. In 2016, he received the George Polk career award given by Long Island University for lifetime achievement. He was nominated by 17 members of Congress this year for the Congressional Gold Medal; along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, it is the nation’s highest civilian honor.

“I had a compelling ambition to fight segregation on the front line,” he told the National Press Club in 1982 when he received its Fourth Estate Award for lifetime achievement. “I stayed on the road covering civil rights day and night. We ducked into funeral homes at night to photograph the battered bodies of civil rights victims. The names, the places and the events became history.”




Jim Nabors, left, and Frank Sutton, on the TV series “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” Credit Associated Press

Jim Nabors, a comic actor who found fame in the role of the amiable bumpkin Gomer Pyle in two hit television shows of the 1960s while pursuing a second career as a popular singer with a booming baritone voice, died on Thursday at his home in Honolulu. He was 87.

His husband, Stan Cadwallader, confirmed the death. He said that Mr. Nabors’s health had been declining for a year and that his immune system had been suppressed since he underwent a liver transplant in 1994.

At the time, Mr. Nabors announced that he had contracted hepatitis B in India several years earlier when he cut himself shaving with a contaminated straight razor, which he had bought there.

Gomer Pyle, the character that so indelibly stamped Mr. Nabors’s career, originated in 1962 as a supporting role on “The Andy Griffith Show,” a bucolic CBS comedy that had been running since 1960. Gomer was a guileless, sweet-natured gas-station attendant in Mayberry, N.C., a sleepy fictional town where Mr. Griffith played the widower sheriff, Don Knotts his deputy, Ron Howard his son and Frances Bavier his matronly Aunt Bee.

Mr. Nabors’s character, a village innocent who tended to make a mess of things, became a favorite, and his sheepish “gawwwleee” and wide-eyed “shazam!” became popular catchphrases.

In 1964, the character was spun off into his own series, “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.,” in which Gomer, still bumbling but well meaning, joined the Marines and, on a weekly basis, tried the patience of his loudmouthed drill sergeant, Vince Carter (Frank Sutton).

Remember Jim Nabors by Streaming These Five ‘Andy Griffith Show’ Episodes

The comic actor and singer was best known for playing Gomer Pyle on the classic TV comedy.

Gomer was a recognizable kind of American hero: a good-hearted, gentle, unsophisticated sort (not unlike Forrest Gump of a later era) who encounters a harder, more cynical modern world — in this case embodied by Southern California — and helps redeem it.

“Sheldon Leonard and his co-creators astutely chose a Southern California Marine base for their hero,” Gerard Jones wrote in his 1992 history of the American sitcom, “Honey, I’m Home!”

He added: “In various episodes Gomer connected with the movie and TV industries, the music business, the surf scene, the Beverly Hills rich — all the easy symbols of modernity. Everywhere he went he left a trail of fond smiles and innocence — at least temporarily — restored.”

But “one thing Gomer never, ever connected with,” Mr. Jones added, “was the Vietnam War,” which was raging at the time, just as he and his neighbors in Mayberry had remained isolated from the civil rights movement in the South. “He somehow existed in the peacetime military when there was no peace.”

Mr. Nabors first showed off his booming singing voice for a national TV audience in a guest appearance on “The Danny Kaye Show” in 1964. To fans who knew him only as Gomer, his full-throated, almost operatic baritone was surprisingly striking, if strangely incongruous.

“Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” lasted five seasons, ending in 1969, when Mr. Nabors was given his own CBS variety show and with it more opportunities to sing. “The Jim Nabors Hour” lasted until 1971. In 1975 and 1976, he and Ruth Buzzi starred as a pair of androids in the ABC children’s show “The Lost Saucer.” He was a frequent guest on “The Carol Burnett Show.”


He also made dozens of albums, recording ballads, show tunes, gospel and sacred music, country songs and Christmas carols, and performed regularly in Las Vegas showrooms and in concert. He regularly sang “Back Home Again in Indiana” at the Indianapolis 500 auto race, first in 1972 and most recently in 2014.

Mr. Nabors, left, and Andy Griffith at CBS’s 75th-anniversary celebration in 2003 in New York. Credit Associated Press

Mr. Nabors played supporting roles in three movies starring his friend Burt Reynolds: “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” (1982), “Stroker Ace” (1983) and “Cannonball Run II” (1984).

James Thurston Nabors was born on June 12, 1930, in Sylacauga, Ala., the third child and only son of Fred and Mavis Nabors. His father was a police officer. Jim sang in his school glee club and church choir and played the clarinet in the school band.

After earning a degree in business from the University of Alabama, he moved to New York, where he worked as a typist at the United Nations while harboring hopes for a stage career. Those hopes went unfulfilled.

He then moved to Tennessee, where he worked as a film cutter for a Chattanooga television station. By the end of the 1950s he had moved to Los Angeles, partly to relieve his chronic asthma.

Taking a job as a film cutter at NBC, he started to perform, for no pay, at the Horn, a cabaret in Santa Monica, where his hillbilly monologues and operatic arias caught the notice of the comic actor Bill Dana, a regular performer on “The Steve Allen Show.” Invited by Mr. Dana to audition, Mr. Nabors was soon making frequent appearances on the Allen show as it neared the end of its long run. (It was canceled in 1961.)

Mr. Griffith also caught his act and decided that Mr. Nabors’s nasal twang and down-home ways made him a natural for “The Andy Griffith Show.”

“Andy saw me, and he said, ‘I don’t know what you do, but you do it very well,’ ” Mr. Nabors once recalled.

Gen. James L. Jones Jr., the Marine Corps commandant, pinned the lance corporal insignia on Mr. Nabors during a spoof ceremony in 2001 at Camp Smith in Honolulu. After 37 years as a private first class, Mr. Nabors’s fictional sitcom character, Gomer Pyle, got a promotion. Credit Associated Press

He spent much of his later years in Hawaii, where he had a home in Honolulu and a 500-acre farm in Hana, on the island of Maui, growing macadamia nuts and tropical flowers. He also had a home in Montana.

Mr. Nabors married Mr. Cadwallader, his companion of 38 years, in January 2013 at a hotel in Seattle, a few weeks after same-sex marriage became legal in Washington State. Although he was quoted at the time as saying that he had “never made a huge secret” of his homosexuality, and that people in the entertainment industry had long known he was gay, he had not publicly acknowledged it until his marriage.

Mr. Nabors told the television news operation Hawaii News Now at the time that before the marriage it had been been “pretty obvious that we had no rights as a couple.”

“Yet when you’ve been together 38 years, I think something’s got to happen there, you’ve got to solidify something,” he said. “And at my age, it’s probably the best thing to do.”

Mr. Nabors was 82 at the time and Mr. Cadwallader was “in his 60s,” he said. They met in 1975 when Mr. Cadwallader was a Honolulu fire fighter. He later went to work for Mr. Nabors, and they began a relationship, Mr. Nabors said. A niece and a nephew also survive him.

The Gomer Pyle persona never left Mr. Nabors, but he was comfortable with that.

“I’ve never found doing Gomer to be that limiting to me,” Mr. Nabors said in 1990. “I’ve always enjoyed the character, and I see no reason to change it.”

The Marines have recognized the character, calling Mr. Nabors “a great American.” In 2001, in a whimsical ceremony in Honolulu presided over by Gen. James L. Jones Jr., commandant of the Marine Corps, Pfc. Gomer Pyle — Mr. Nabors, in character — was promoted to lance corporal.

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